In late 2011, I participated in a working/parenting series at the blog First the Egg (authored by another Molly!) As I continue to balance my working/parenting life (and as I take a computer-off retreat during this week), I decided to revisit my guest post and reprint it here. I’m not changing or editing anything about it, so in this universe, I still had an infant, rather than a busy toddler girl!
An interview with Molly Remer of Talk Birth, & part of working/parenting series that’s ongoing here. The first three of us were Mollys, but I swear I’m done and will give you guest post authors with other first names soon!
What activities in your life do you consider “work”? Do you think of parenting–or some component of parenting–as “work”?
I do not think of parenting as my “job.” Being a mother is a *relationship* to me, not a role or a job. However, it is an extremely consuming relationship! And, perhaps paradoxically, some elements of mothering do feel like hard work. Like Adrienne Rich, I feel like one’s feelings about motherhood as a relationship and motherhood as an institution are two separate things–I can find motherhood as institution oppressive, while still finding the relationship with my children fulfilling. So, I guess what I’m saying is that there are parenting tasks that are work to me, but that the relationship dimension–which I place primary value on–is not a job or work.
A mothering moment that I’m not proud of came up for me immediately upon reading this question. My son was about three and something challenging had happened that I’ve since forgotten–I believe it was something to do with kitchen mess–and I said to my son with a sigh, “wow! Sometimes you are really hard to take care of” (like I indicated, not the best moment from me) and he replied, “I’m not hard, I’m soft! Just feel my little body!” He rubbed his hands all around his chest and stomach as he shared this–demonstrating his genuine softness. ::sob::
Has your relationship with work changed as a result of your experiences parenting?
Yes, I desperately snatch at free moments, packing one million tasks into my solo hours, like a starving person who is unsure where the next time-meal is coming from. I feel greedy for time alone to work in silence. I continue to require silence for my best work–I hate listening to music while writing, etc. This isn’t new for me, but the advent of motherhood layered on many challenges to experiencing what for me is an ideal work environment (silent and distractionless).
Do you do any non-parenting activities, for pay or without pay, that you consider “work”? If so, how do you juggle these roles and activities with parenting?
An example: I typed this whole response on my phone while nursing my sleeping baby.
Yes, I teach in-seat and online college classes. I write. I am a breastfeeding counselor. I edit a newsletter. I am a D.Min student. I facilitate groups. I teach birth classes. I consider all of these things work activities. I do not distinguish between paid and unpaid activities.
Something I feel is important to mention and is likely a feature of socioeconomic factors, is that to me my work equals passion, commitment, vibrancy, and aliveness. The place where the world’s great hunger and my own gifts meet. It is my “music.” The things I am “called” to do on this planet. The wild and precious life I have to offer to the world. Work to me does not connote drudgery or burden (except when I make it so, by expecting inhuman quantities of productivity from myself).
Is there work that you want to do but can’t right now? What does that look like for you?
Yes, I have three books in partial stages of development and just have to let them rest right now.
Do you ever feel misunderstood or judged because of how work happens in your family, or because of your relationship with work? What does that look like for you?
Yes, but I don’t feel like I have time to explore my answer right now. Women have always worked-–in motherhood capacities and in other capacities (usually simultaneously). I feel like we do all women a disservice by setting up or assuming either-or scenarios. I feel like people who think of me as a WOHM imagine I’m gone all the time and missing milestones, when really I’m out of the house ten hours per week and spend 99% of my waking and sleeping moments in the company of my baby, not to mention the fact that I homeschool my boys. I feel like those who look at me as a SAHM consider my teaching and writing to be my casual little “hobbies” that I dabble with in my free time, rather than career activities for me.
I could go on for ages, but both work and motherhood call to me now and I’m going to have to be okay with this being what I have to offer to the dialog in this moment.